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New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte introduced a resolution today supporting hundreds of thousands of Dominican-born persons rendered stateless in the Dominican Republic because of their ancestry, especially those of Haitian descent.

“Amnesty International USA welcomes the resolution and calls on all members of the Assembly to stand in solidarity with Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been stripped of their nationality,” said Marselha Goncalves Margerin, AIUSA advocacy director of the Americas.

Since the early 2000s, Dominican authorities have been changing their policies on nationality and applying those changes retroactively in a manner that is particularly discriminatory toward Dominicans of Haitian descent. In September 2013, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ordered the Central Electoral Board to thoroughly examine all birth registries since 1929 and remove from them all persons who were supposedly wrongly registered and recognized as Dominican citizens. There are more than 200,000 people of Haitian descent that have lost their Dominican nationality and are now stateless. They have no nationality.

The story of Yolanda, whose parents were Haitian, is typical of the stories of discrimination faced daily by those of Haitian descent. Yolanda is a survivor of domestic violence, but was denied the right to lodge a complaint and file for child support because she didn’t have an identity card. Yolanda’s children, though born in the Dominican Republic, were denied birth certificates because of their Haitian ancestry. She is unable to register her children in the civil registry.

Amnesty International USA has been campaigning on behalf of Yolanda, and her family as well as the hundreds of thousands of similarly-situated Dominicans to end the stateless crisis. AIUSA welcomes the resolution in the New York State Assembly and urges its members to stand in solidarity with all those in the Dominican Republic who are facing discrimination and statelessness.

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The Dominican Republic’s nationality laws have come under intense criticism before. In October 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the law violated the American Convention on Human Rights. The Dominican authorities immediately rejected the ruling and refused to comply with it. They have also repeatedly stated that nobody has been made stateless.

Hundreds of thousands of descendants of Haitian migrants live in the Dominican Republic. In many cases their relatives had been actively encouraged to come to the Dominican Republic since the 1940s, through bi-lateral agreements between the two countries aiming to relocate a cheap labor force to work in the sugarcane plantations. For decades the Dominican Republic formally recognized the children of Haitian migrants born in the country as citizens, issuing birth certificates, identity cards and passports to them, irrespective of the migration status of their parents. An Amnesty International action calling on Dominican authorities to abide by international law can be found here.